Tal-Bakkari Ruins in Zurrieq

Sometimes it is the memory of the place that stays with you.  Others it is the story.  This is one of the latter.

It is common for people to pass by the Tal-Bakkari remains and judge it as just another abandoned site, especially when the weeds have been allowed to run wild.  And, in a country that is laden with historical and archaeological treasures, the probability of that is even higher.

Yet, even so the story is one that stuck with me.

It all starts with the arrival on the island in 1091 of a Norman noble man – Roger the First of Sicily – and his army.  Together with his brother Robert Guiscard he had invaded and conquered most of Southern Italy and, having done so, decided to conquer Malta in order to stave off any possible invasion from North Africa.

Whatever his motives, he is regarded as a benevolent conqueror who left the ruling qadi in place, once these had agreed to pay tributes to him, of course.  Maltese children are (or at least were) taught that the he tore a red and white off his banner which he gave it to the locals with this eventually becoming the Maltese flag.

The biggest change that Count Roger brought about, however, was in the island’s religious culture.  Even though the qadi were allowed to stay, his own Roman Catholic background meant that there was a greater incentive for the locals to adopt that religion.

Which is what they did and which brings us back to story of Tal-Bakkari.  Because one of the ways that those who were eager to show that they had adopted the ruler’s religion had was that of building a chapel and that is what led to the construction of this chapel.

That is what I see when I look at the four pillars that remain: the worried peasants unsure of what the future had in store for them trying to find a way to earn some security.  It is something that adds inflections to the character of these people; it makes them feel like real people.  And that’s why the story, more than the place, has stuck with me.

These ruins can be found here.


Post a Comment